Archive for January, 2022


First show of the year and what better way to start than a panto. Now I’m a huge fan of Birmingham Youth Theatre, especially after last summers’ brilliant Disco Inferno. Therefore, I had no hesitation in attending Jack and the Beanstalk at The Old Rep Theatre, Birmingham.

Yes, we all know the basic plot of Jack and the Beanstalk, so I won’t bore you with the details. However, each production needs an original take and Director, Joe Logan delivered that with his own script. As a writer of pantos myself, I admired magic moments on the night that I wish I’d thought of in mine. The character of Alexa was a touch of genius; the way she slipped into the Amazon Information Device when asked a question. And kudos to Ruby Blount for a superb performance, especially in the opening barrage of facts which must have been extremely hard to learn.

As our hero, Jack, Charlie Bland was in fine form and excelled equally with Blount, duetting in Human Nature. And in Jack’s sibling (Silly Billy), Megan Allsop equally delivered the laughs and performed well during Dance Monkey.

Of course, a panto needs a Dame (which I believe needs to be convincing as a female and played with respect). I’m happy to say Harrison Doherty did just that with a gorgeous but funny Dame Dolly. Likewise, there is room for a fairy and Maddison Clarke’s glorious Fairy Hiccup was a booze-fuelled character with unfortunate contractions of the diaphragm. It worked well. And portrayed equally as lackadaisical was Dylan O’Connor’s King Snoozy who teamed up with Dame Dolly for a wonderful Take a Chance on Me.

And we come to the baddies. As I say, I like pantos which differ from the norm and the Princess, who traditionally ends up with the hero, was this time the villain of the piece. Lily-Mae Nicholls was wonderfully evil as Princess Jill. A nice twist and Material Girl entertained the audience well. Alongside Jill in the evil stakes was Rhys Bishop as Baron Stuck Up Johnson, getting boos in the right places and leading an ensemble well with an extremely modified version of Heathers, Candy Store, renamed Behind the Door.

I’m not sure if you should call Tik (Josh Mills) and Tok (Lola Harper) villains, more tools of the Baron and Princess. These two were excellent comic stooges and performed a great slapstick routine in the kitchen. It was a result of these shenanigans that we had one of the moments of the night with the Sausage Roll Medley. Hilarious, although verging on a heinous crime to rock fans with I Love Rock and Roll Sausage Rolls, We Built This City on Rock and Roll Sausage Rolls and Don’t Stop Believing – “Just a sausage roll.” Awesome. And we even had a cameo voiceover from Birmingham Hippodrome panto legend and Youth Theatre patron, Matt Slack as the voice of the giant.

My favourite principal character, however (and getting a huge round of applause in the bows), was Goldie Harper, a singing, out of tune harp, played by one of the youngest talents in Marni Carroll. She had the audience howling with off-key renditions including Lonely, Let it Go and 5000 Green Bottles.

Other numbers of note, overseen by Musical Director, Chris Corcoran, included We Got the Beat, Can’t Stop the Feeling, the haunting Into the Unknown and a humorous costumed performance of Talk to the Animals.

Writer, Joe Logan, also directed and oversaw choreography including an excellent dance troupe consisting of Bethany Gilbert, Olivia Jefferson, Anna Simpson, Ellie Cosgrove, Beatrice Roberts, Emily Denigan, Carter Evans and Luke Griffiths. Assisting Logan in direction was Emily Ewins and you get the feeling of a team effort with the cheers and elation behind the curtain at the end, the results of those endeavours.

Heck, I’ve overrun. By at least 100 words. But that’s what Birmingham Youth Theatre do to you. Give you lots to rave about. And they’re back at The Old Rep Theatre (June 30 to July 2 2022) with High School Musical. I cannot recommend them enough.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

Due to a ridiculous schedule with my own production and other commitments these past few months, I’m way behind on publishing reviews, so sorry about that.

*****

It was a last-minute decision to see Robin Hood and his Band of Merry Men, but I’m glad I did. Set in an intimate venue with about 50 in attendance, you were right amongst the action. I often say rather than watch a performance, I like to experience and be part of one, and Robin Hood certainly did that for me.

As well as being in a small venue, Robin Hood only had a cast of six, but such was the quality of the script by Oliver Hume, it made no difference to the enjoyment. Full of jokes, new and old (You have to have them in panto), the script also paid homage to classic sketches of the past, my favourite being, the vessel with the pestle/chalice with the palace routine made famous by Danny Kaye in 1955’s The Court Jester.

Robin Hood was courtesy of Aunty Jen Productions, whose founder, Jennifer Rigby, also played Lidl Jen. The butt of the jokes, Jen’s character was a typical Audiences’ Best Friend and held the show solo on occasions. A job well done.

Playing Robin and Marian we had Annaliese Morgan and Nicolette Morgan, respectively. Both had great singing voices, excellent stage presence, and had those watching warm to them throughout.

There is nothing like a dame, and Mark Jeffries was superb as Nurse Juicy Lucy, having the audience eat out of her hand, and eating any participant for breakfast, if they dared to have a go back. I have views on pantomime dames and loved how Jeffries played Lucy with respect. Some actors use the Dame for cheap laughs at the man in a dress, but Lucy was gorgeous, darling. The character was who you saw on stage.

The baddie in The Sheriff of Nottingham was bad indeed, and I mean that as a huge compliment. Neville Cann had the darkness of villainy, mixed with essential comic moments at the right times. Plus, a wonderful, sinister laugh.

Rounding off our six was wandering minstrel, Alan-a-Dale, performed superbly by Danny Teitge. Opening a show is a huge responsibility and Danny rose to this task, nailing it while setting the scene for more to come. And what a voice!

The sign of a good production is how quick time flies, and Robin Hood flew like an arrow. A thoroughly enjoyable evening from a company whose future productions I highly recommend. Therefore, when at two hours’ notice you have a thought to check if there is anything on that is local, you may find a gem like Aunty Jen.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

Due to a ridiculous schedule with my own production and other commitments these past few months, I’m way behind on publishing reviews, so sorry about that.

*****

Legally Blonde is one of the best musicals to appear in the 21st Century, popular with audiences and critics alike. However, it needs to be done well and fortunately for the people of Cannock, Brownhills Musical Theatre Company did exactly that.

This is a show I have seen a lot but also the smallest venue/stage I’ve witnessed it performed. I’m glad to say, nothing was lost. Much of that was due to the size of the cast. Many amateur societies struggle for members, so it was refreshing to see around forty on stage. The difference this makes to company numbers cannot be ignored. A huge wall of sound combined with great expression and interaction from all.

Legally Blonde tells the tale of Elle Woods (played superbly by Phillippa Mills) who goes to Harvard to pursue love, but instead finds herself, fresh love, and a new direction. It’s a great script by Heather Hack, alongside fantastic music and lyrics from Laurence O’Keefe and Neil Benjamin. And one of the main plusses is that Legally Blonde is filled with strong characters. In these, Adam Gregory excelled as Emmett while Charlotte Simcox shone in the role of Paulette. Her main number, Ireland, is such a good (tongue in cheek) number and always raises a laugh, as it did on this occasion.

Then we had the villain of the piece in Professor Callaghan with Chris Parry delivering a top-drawer performance in stage presence and during Blood on the Water. Also starring was Adam Merrall as Warner who cruelly dumps Elle at the beginning of the show during Serious. Then we had Stacey Ward (Vivienne), Charlottle Trigg (Brooke Wyndham) and Emma Wyatt (Enid Hoops). Supporting too, were Hattie Parry (Pilar), Louise Hewitt (Serena) and Claire Goodwin (Margot) – The Greek Chorus of Delta Nu. As I have said, it was a large cast, so I can’t name everyone. However, as I was needled the last time I reviewed this show for ignoring the dogs, on this occasion they were Humphrey and Stan. They behaved well.

Legally Blonde has terrific numbers: Positive, So Much Better, What You Want, Bend and Snap and the title song, Legally Blonde (of which there are two equally good versions). However, my favourite is still the glorious There! Right There!

All shows need a good production team and Legally Blonde had theirs with Kelly Tye and Richard Tye (Directors), Alex Priestly (Musical Director) and Alex Woolliscroft (Choreography).

The last couple of years have been hard on theatre and local amateur companies. It was, therefore, a joy to see the audience appreciate the challenging work of cast and crew and display as much enjoyment as those on stage.

Theatre is back.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

Due to a ridiculous schedule with my own production and other commitments these past few months, I’m way behind on publishing reviews, so sorry about that.

*****

I admit from past experiences I’m not a fan of Bill Kenwright Productions, so I approached Heathers with a tinge of worry amid the excitement. You see, I had not seen the show before, yet was familiar with the music due to both Off Broadway and West End Original Cast Recordings. I also had good memories of the 1988 Daniel Waters film of the same name which (incidentally) this musical follows closely.

Heathers tells of Veronica Sawyer, an unfashionable High School student, desperate to belong to the major clique, all named Heather. After initial success, Veronica falls foul of leader, Heather Chandler and turns to new student and bad boy, Jason Dean (JD). What follows is a tale of murder, revenge and suicide. But however dark the themes may sound, there is a glorious wealth of humour throughout.

What makes Heathers work is an excellent book with a top-drawer selection of songs from Kevin Murphey and Laurence O’Keefe. All are memorable; not a weak tune among them. Still, to bring such a good template to life, you need the cast, and all on show were amazing.

I must say, I loved every bit of Rebecca Wickes’ performance; be it song or character; her mannerisms were so believable. She was outstanding as anti-heroine, Veronica, with numbers: Beautiful, Dead Girl Walking and I Say No, out of this world. Equally so was Simon Gordon in the role of JD who duetted exceptionally with Wickes in Seventeen and Our Love is God, as well as his own Freeze Your Brain.

“And then there’s the Heathers. They float above it all.”

On my viewing, the Heathers were Daisy Twells (Chandler), Merryl Ansah (Duke) and Lizzy Parker (McNamara). These three absolutely smashed it as the terrible trio, especially during the popular Candy Store. Individually and respectively, The Me Inside of Me, Never Shut Up Again and Lifeboat again exceeded expectations.

Supporting, we had Liam Doyle (Kurt) and Rory Phelan (Ram) as the expertly portrayed dense High School Jocks, lured to their deaths by JD. Also on show were Bailey Hart (Ms Fleming) singing Shine a Light, Mhairi Angus (Martha) with Kindergarten Boyfriend, plus Andy Brady and Kurt Kansley as Ram and Kurt’s fathers.

This tour production was directed by Andy Frickman with choreography from Gary Lloyd. Musical direction was in the hands of Gary Hickerson.

Heathers is a brilliant show, a real rollercoaster ride which flows at an amazing speed without a dull moment in sight. The tour has now ended but I urge you to check it out either back in the West End or the next available tour. This time, Bill Kenwright Productions left me satisfied and wanting more.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

Due to a ridiculous schedule with my own production and other commitments these past few months, I’m way behind on publishing reviews, so sorry about that.

****

Great tunes, colourful costumes and characters that are wildly OTT. All ingredients of a successful modern show, and Priscilla Queen of the Desert has the lot.

Based on the 1994 film of the same name, Priscilla tells the story of three drag queens travelling across the Australian outback to perform at Alice Springs. However, as with most film adaptations, Priscilla has its own set of musical numbers, and these are taken from various artists to significant effect.

Sounds such as Say a Little Prayer, Don’t Leave Me This Way, Always on My Mind and I Will Survive are all classic hits and were excellent. And for me, it was the rousing crowd pleasers which did exactly that: Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, Colour My World and Hot Stuff were amazing, but highlight of my night was Go West, which had the whole audience going wild at the end. Although, I would like to give a mention to the wonderfully delivered Pop Muzik, sung by Grace Lai (Cynthia) with the bizarre utilisation of (ahem) ping pong balls.

In the role of our ladies, we had Edwin Ray (Tick), Miles Western (Bernadette) and Nick Hayes (Felicia) and although Pricilla had a decent size cast, these three principals have a heavier share than in most musicals. But pull it off they did. All strong, giving excellent, powerful performances. Supporting in great fashion too was Daniel Fletcher as Cynthia’s shell-shocked husband, Bob. This character made great comic additions to an already funny script. Other performances of note were Rebecca Lisewski (Marion), Kevin Yates (Miss Understanding), Ronan Burns (Frank) and Jak Allen-Anderson (Farrah). Then I must mention the splendid Divas who provided lead and backing vocals throughout. These were Claudia Kariuki, Aiesha Pease and Rosie Glossop.

Priscilla Queen of the Desert was produced by everybody’s good neighbour, Jason Donovan with Helen Siveter as Resident Director, Ian Talbot (Director), Richard Atkinson (Musical Director) and Tom Jackson-Greaves (Choreographer).

A lovely show with a funny, well-written script from Stephan Elliott and Allan Scott combined with great retro music, dance, and colour. So, if you want all of these, I’d keep a lookout for the show’s return. I know I will.

Cheers.

Antony N Britt

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